Expert shopping: Home security systems

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Once upon a time, installing a security system could be a very costly affair: A professional monitoring company would provide the gear, locking you into an expensive, multi-year contract. In today’s DIY smart home world, though, new competitors have entered the fray that make home security much more enticing. Essentially, they let you buy the components you need, set them up yourself and subscribe to a monitoring plan — or don’t — and monitor everything completely from your phone. But with multiple home security systems and various packages in each, choosing the right one can get overwhelming.

IN THIS ARTICLE How to find the best home security system | Best home security systems | Best all-around security system | Best for smart homes | Best for Ring users | Best high-end home security system | Best affordable home security system

How to find the best home security system

There’s no one-size-fits-all security system. Instead, these systems are designed to be piecemeal, allowing you to pick and choose among:

  • Door/window sensors, which alert you when a door or window has been opened

  • Motion sensors, which can detect someone walking through your living room

  • Glass break sensors, which use either sound or vibration to detect if a window has been broken

  • And other specialized modules

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All that to say: You can build a system that works really well for your unique home. Some systems can even integrate with other smart home devices like smart locks, as well as 24/7 professional monitoring—which will automatically alert emergency services in the event of an alarm triggering—for a monthly fee. Most DIY systems are cheaper than the professional systems of old, and don’t come with contracts. It’s up to you whether this monitoring is worth the cost, but it may get you a discount on your home insurance that makes up for it.

“Discounts vary by state,” explains Stephanie Clemente, assistant vice president of sales and client services at Amica Mutual Insurance. “In many states, Amica offers discounts on homeowner policies if a customer’s home is protected by a security system. Discounts may be greater for alarm systems that are professionally monitored, as the response time in the case of an issue is generally faster.”

It’s not just about security from theft, either. Adam Kostecki, the senior assistant vice president of digital solutions and innovation at Amica, recommends sensors that focus on things you wouldn’t otherwise notice, like leak sensors or freeze sensors. Given benefits like that and the more direct capabilities of monitoring and protecting your home, it might be the right time to upgrade your security.

Related: Amazon is still offering expedited shipping on electronics, kitchen appliances and more across the site — ensuring delivery in time for Father’s Day.

The best home security systems to shop in 2020

But don’t feel like you have to rush out and buy everything at once. “When putting together your system, think about your long-term plans for home monitoring and identify the main uses you have for a smart home system,” Kostecki says. “Start small with the most important uses, and build on to the system incrementally by adding different devices that accomplish different objectives.” Before you start building your home security package, contact your insurance company to see what kind of discounts they might offer — that information could inform your choices.

Best all-around security system: SimpliSafe

1. SimpliSafe 8-Piece Wireless Home Security System

SimpliSafe strikes a delicate balance between price, number of sensor options and ease of use. They offer a number of different starter packs, but I recommend starting with their 8-piece kit, which comes with an attractive hub, four door and window sensors, a motion sensor, a keypad and a panic button. From there, you can add audio-based glass break sensors, water and freeze sensors, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, cameras and more. SimpliSafe cannot integrate with any third-party products, like smart locks from other brands — you’re limited to SimpliSafe’s own smart lock and other products. Their self-monitoring is also extremely limited, so for SimpliSafe to be truly useful, you have to subscribe to their 24/7 monitoring plan for $15 per month — a far cry more affordable from many contract-based security systems, though, and your insurance may easily make up that cost in discounts.

SimpliSafe Wireless Security System

SimpliSafe Wireless Security System ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
SimpliSafe Wireless Security System (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • SimpliSafe Wireless Security System $314.50 at ebay

  • SimpliSafe Wireless Security System $294.93 at SimpliSafe

  • SimpliSafe Wireless Security System $194.70 at Amazon

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Best self-monitored security for smart homes: Abode

2. Abode iota All-in-One Home Security Kit

While Abode is a tad more expensive than its competitors, it offers more customizability than you can shake a stick at. Their standard starter kit — which I personally use in my home — comes with the hub, a motion sensor, a key fob and one door/window sensor, though the newer iota starter kit eschews the motion sensor for a camera built into the hub itself. They offer a ton of add-on sensors, from door sensors in multiple shapes and sizes to glass break sensors that use vibration instead of audio frequencies. Most importantly, Abode integrates with a ton of other smart home products, like smart locks, smart thermostats, smart light bulbs and more, so you can integrate them with your alarm system in one place. You can monitor the home yourself for free or subscribe to their $20/month monitoring plan — they also offer short-term one-off plans for when you go on vacation, which is useful.

Abode iota All-in-One Home Security Kit

Abode iota All-in-One Home Security Kit ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
Abode iota All-in-One Home Security Kit (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Abode iota All-in-One Home Security Kit $259.00 at ebay

  • Abode iota All-in-One Home Security Kit $229.00 at Abode

  • Abode iota All-in-One Home Security Kit $229.00 at Amazon

Best security system for Ring device users: Ring Alarm

3. All-new Ring Alarm 5-piece Kit

Amazon’s Ring — yes, the famous video doorbell company — also offers an affordable DIY security system. Their starter kit comes with the base station, a keypad, one door/window sensor, a motion sensor and a range extender. You can add more sensors as you need them, and Ring offers flood/freeze sensors, smoke and carbon monoxide “listeners” (these notify you in the app if your existing detectors go off) and integrates a few third-party products. Ring’s biggest benefit would be integrating with existing Ring cameras, though they’re still in the process of merging these two product lines. Still, if you already have Ring cameras and use Alexa (Ring doesn’t work with Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit), it may not be a bad bet, especially since the optional $10/month monitoring fee covers both the alarm system and your cameras’ cloud storage.

Ring Alarm 5-piece Kit

Ring Alarm 5-piece Kit ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
Ring Alarm 5-piece Kit (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Ring Alarm 5-piece Kit $159.99 at Home Depot

  • Ring Alarm 5-piece Kit $159.99 at Best Buy

  • Ring Alarm 5-piece Kit $159.99 at Amazon

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Best high-end home security system with high quality camera: Nest Secure

4. Nest Secure Alarm System Starter Pack

If cameras are the central focus of your security system — with a few door sensors on the side — take a look at Nest Secure. It’s easily the most expensive on this list, especially when you consider the fact that Nest’s cameras all but require the $6-to-12/month Nest Aware subscription to be useful — and that’s separate from the 24/7 monitoring subscription for your sensors. Still, it’s polished, its cameras are some of the best on the market and if you already have Nest products in your home, you’re already halfway there.

Nest Secure Alarm System Starter Pack

Google Nest Secure Alarm System Starter Pack (Walmart / Walmart)
Google Nest Secure Alarm System Starter Pack (Walmart / Walmart)
  • Nest Secure Alarm System Starter Pack $348.00 at Walmart

  • Nest Secure Alarm System Starter Pack $399.99 at Best Buy

  • Nest Secure Alarm System Starter Pack $399.00 at Home Depot

Best affordable home security system: Wyze Sense

5. Wyze Indoor Smart Home 1080P Camera with Wyze Sense Starter Kit

Wyze may not be a household name like the others on this list, but the company has made a name for themselves in the smart home space for their insanely affordable products, starting with the $25 Wyze Cam. They’ve now introduced their own home security kit with door/window sensors, motion sensors and a bridge that plugs into Wyze’s Camera (which is required for the system to work). Wyze’s products have their limitations — there aren’t many types of sensors and you can’t adjust the sensitivity of the motion sensor, for example — but if all the other options are no-gos due to price, Wyze gets you some of the protection for a fraction of the cost.

Wyze Indoor Smart Home Camera and Sense Starter Kit

1080p Indoor Wireless Surveillance System includes WyzeCam v2 Camera and Wyze Sense Starter Kit ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
1080p Indoor Wireless Surveillance System includes WyzeCam v2 Camera and Wyze Sense Starter Kit (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Wyze Indoor Smart Home Camera and Sense Starter Kit $47.96 at Home Depot

  • Wyze Indoor Smart Home Camera and Sense Starter Kit $42.92 at Amazon

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